Capitol Updates

Friday, February 23, 2024

DOWNLOAD THE NSEA CAPITOL UPDATE APP to receive alerts during the legislative session and stay up to date on events and education news from Legislature. Click here for Android or Apple – or search for “NSEA Capitol Update.” 

Spread the News! NSEA members may click here to sign up and receive our Capitol Update newsletter to keep you up to date with the latest information on education legislation and funding. You may also forward this to the personal email address of your NSEA colleagues and encourage them to sign up. 

  • NSEA Legislative Dinner, March 12 - Register Now
  • ACTION ALERT: $100 Million Private School Appropriation Advances
  • Role of Grants to Retain and Recruit K-12 Teachers
  • ACTION ALERT: Education Union Retaliation Bill on General File
  • Committee Hearings Next Week

NSEA Legislative Dinner, March 12 - Register Now

Member Registration:  https://www.nsea.org/2024LegisDinner 
Dine with your senator: This year’s NSEA Legislative Dinner will be at the Champions Club in Lincoln on Tuesday, Mar. 12. The reception will begin at 5 p.m., with dinner at 6:15 p.m. 

$100 Million Private School Appropriation Advances

On Thursday, LB1402 was advanced by the Appropriations Committee to the full Legislature. The bill could be debated on General File as early as next week. It appropriates an initial $25 million in public tax dollars to fund private schools and allows the cost to taxpayers to grow to $100 million annually. These public funds will be given to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) that will distribute the money to pay for private schools. LB1402, in addition to LB753, will erode funding for public education.

Here’s how using public tax dollars to fund private schools will harm Nebraska public schools:

Erosion of Public Education Funding: Channeling public dollars into private schools will lead to a reduction in state funding for public education and an increase in local property taxes. As state resources are diverted to private schools, local public schools, which serve 90% of students in Nebraska, will also face budget cuts, resulting in larger class sizes, program reductions, and a decline in overall educational quality.

Exacerbating Inequality: Public schools are required to accept all students, regardless of their socio-economic background, academic ability, or special needs. Private schools, on the other hand, have selective admissions processes, and can reject students who are unable to meet certain criteria. This can further entrench disparities in educational opportunities.

Lack of Accountability and Transparency: Public schools are held accountable to the taxpayers and are subject to regulations and oversight to ensure they provide quality education. Private schools are not held to the same accountability standards and do not answer to taxpayers. Public dollars going to private institutions do not require the same level of transparency.

Risk of Segregation: Public funding of private schools will likely contribute to increased segregation in Nebraska as has occurred in other states with such programs. If private schools predominantly attract students from certain socio-economic backgrounds, it will lead to a separation of students based on economic status, further perpetuating social divides.

Diversion of Public Resources for the Few: Public funds should prioritize investments that benefit the entire community, such as improving infrastructure, healthcare, and social services. Diverting taxpayer money to private schools, which serve a limited number of students, is a misallocation of resources that could have broader societal benefits.

LB1402 is this year’s version of LB753 and is an attempt to usurp the people's right to decide the issue of using tax dollars to fund private schools. Last year, when lawmakers passed LB753’s voucher plan to divert public dollars to pay for private schools, more than 117,000 Nebraskans signed a referendum petition to put the issue on this November’s ballot to be decided by voters.

ACTION ALERT: We urge you to contact your senator now to express concerns about LB1402. Find your senator here. Please let your senator know that LB1402’s direct appropriation to fund private schools is a clear violation of the Nebraska Constitution. Emphasize the importance of respecting voter decisions and protecting Nebraskans’ right to vote on this issue in November. Draw parallels between LB1402 and LB753.

Role of Grants to Retain and Recruit K-12 Teachers

As Nebraska grapples with the challenges of an evolving educational landscape, the spotlight is increasingly turning towards the critical need for retaining experienced teachers and recruiting new talent into the K-12 education system. On key strategy gaining traction is the provision of scholarships and grants, aimed at bolstering both teacher retention and attracting fresh faces to the profession.

Recruit New Teachers. Across the country including Nebraska, there has been a growing concern over teacher shortages in various subject areas. The demand for qualified educators is on the rise, making it essential to actively recruit new teachers to fill these gaps. Grants can be instrumental in attracting individuals to the teaching profession by offering financial incentives, scholarship programs, and support for teacher training programs. Three bills introduced this session will help address this area of need:

LB953 by Sen. Kathleen Kauth, provides for student teachers to be entitled to a waiver of 100% of resident tuition charges of the University of Nebraska or a Nebraska state college for the semester that the student teacher is student teaching in a Nebraska elementary, middle, or high school, provided the student teacher meets certain criteria.

LB964 by Sen. George Dungan, would assist individuals studying to become special education teachers by supporting forgivable loans to those individuals who commit to teaching in Nebraska following their certification as a teacher with a special education endorsement. Up to twenty-five students per institution per academic year may awarded forgivable loans by the department.

LB1160 by Sen. Lynne Walz, provides eligible teacher college students would be able to apply for forgivable loans of up to $6,000 per year for three (3) years instead of up to $3,000 per year over five (5) years. This would increase the maximum loan amount per student under the Attracting Excellence in Teaching Program from $15,000 to $18,000.

Retain Current Teachers. Teacher salaries that provide competitive compensation is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. Grants can be used to supplement teacher salaries, making the profession more financially appealing and helping to retain experienced educators who might otherwise be tempted to take an early retirement. There are three bills introduced this session that will address this need:

LB1121 by Dungan, authorizes an additional grant of $1,500 following a teacher's sixth complete school year once the teacher has signed a new contract to continue teaching full-time in Nebraska under the Nebraska Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act. Teachers would be eligible to receive up to three years of grants totally $4,500.

LB1053 by Walz, authorizes up to five $2,500 extended-career retention grants for teachers who qualify for retirement when the sum of the member’s attained age and creditable service totals eight-five and sign a contract to serve as a full-time teacher for additional years past retirement. Teachers would be eligible to receive five grants totaling $12,500.

LB1052 by Walz, would allow a K-12 grade teacher employed at a school in Nebraska to receive reimbursement for school supplies that were paid for by such teacher. Teachers who have paid for school supplies can apply to NDE to receive up to $300 dollars in reimbursement each school year. This bill is on General File.

Bottom Line. Prioritizing grants for K-12 teachers emerges as a vital step towards fortifying the backbone of our Nebraska education system. Investing in Nebraska’s K-12 teachers is not merely an expenditure but a strategic move towards building a robust and dynamic education system. By addressing recruitment challenges, supporting professional growth, and enhancing overall teacher satisfaction, these legislative proposals, if adopted, will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of education and ensuring that every student has access to high-quality instruction.

Education Union Retaliation Bill on General File

As mentioned last week, the Education Committee advanced LB1091, a bill intended to retaliate against teachers and the NSEA for the LB753 referendum effort. The bill undermines local control and the collective bargaining rights of educators in Nebraska. The bill’s committee statement is now online and shows how the Education Committee senators voted. Click here.

Here are the senators who voted YES to advance LB1091, a bill directly targeting school professional employees’ organizations:

Sen. Danielle Conrad                     dconrad@leg.ne.gov
Sen. LouAnn Linehan                     llinehan@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Joni Albrecht                           jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Dave Murman, Chair             dmurman@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Rita Sanders                           rsanders@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Justin Wayne                           jwayne@leg.ne.gov
Sen. Frederic Meyer                        fmeyer@leg.ne.gov

LB1091 requires a school board or board of education that grants access by a professional employees' organization (NSEA and local affiliates) to a school employee’s physical or electronic mailbox or a meeting to also grant that same access to any other organization that requests access. The bill prohibits a school board or board of education from designating any day or break in the school calendar using the name of any professional employees' organization.

This bill undermines local control, disrespects voters and our duly elected school boards, and disregards the collective bargaining process. Our local associations’ capacity to negotiate on behalf of bargaining units is earned. To be a certified bargaining unit, ALL teachers – members or not – vote. To tell a school district that it must allow ANY outside organization to come in simply because the district has engaged in collective bargaining flies in the face of local control.

ACTION NEEDED! LB1091 is now on General File and could be fast tracked through the consent calendar process or other floor procedures. LB1091 undermines the principle of local control for the sole purpose of providing a bailout for organizations that districts do not recognize and educators do not want. The bill is retaliatory and is bad policy. Please contact your senator and let them know LB1091 should be opposed. Find your senator here.

Committee Hearings Next Week

Weekly public hearings will continue until March. We will provide updates on when bills will be scheduled for hearing throughout the session. Unless otherwise noted, hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. and will be live streamed via Nebraska Public Media. Hearings can be accessed online by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

 

LB957 (Dungan) Provide for early childhood aid under TEEOSA
NSEA Position: Support (Submit Comments Online here)

LB1150 (Brandt) Change TEEOSA
NSEA Position: Monitor (Submit Comments Online here)

LB1065 (Lippincott) Authorize school districts to hire chaplains to perform counselor duties
NSEA Position: Oppose (Submit Comments Online here)

LB1006 (Walz) Change provisions relating to allocated income tax funds under TEEOSA
NSEA Position: Monitor (Submit Comments Online here)

LB1011 (Walz) Change provisions relating to early childhood education under TEEOSA
NSEA Position: Support (Submit Comments Online here)

LB1013 (Walz) Create the Family Engagement Grant Program for certain schools
NSEA Position: Support (Submit Comments Online here)

Thursday, February 29, 2024

LB1417 (Brewer) Eliminates Nebraska Council on Teacher Education
NSEA Position: Oppose (Submit Comments Online here)